Most local students and parents are looking forward to one upcoming event – Spring Break! A week off from school and all its homework and after-school demands can be just what kids need to rejuvenate their spirits. But without careful planning and preparation, this time off can turn into lazy, wasted days spent on the couch mindlessly starring at the television.
These vacation days can be spent as uninterrupted family time for bonding and learning opportunities. Children can use play and activities to enrich and supplement what they are learning in the classroom. This type of learning opportunities will only ensure more success at school. "Don't let them go soft. Keep their minds sharp and learning," says Laurel Phillips, preschool teacher and mother of three. "Having structured time makes vacation feel like it was special, and it keeps my kids engaged, thinking, and growing."
"Kids need to be engaged in ways that exercise their minds and talents," she says. "When we aren't confined by the rigors of our regular, hectic, weekly schedule, I like to give my kids a chance to reconnect with the activities they enjoyed before school and sports required so much time."
Her children, Trevor, 9, Brynn, 7, and Mia, 4, enjoy having free art time where they can create anything they like. Her older two children like to solve puzzles, make crafts from foam-piece art kits, and paint with watercolors. Art instruction can be something simple or more complex. You can even sign up for classes at local art studios, Color Me Mine, the Bakersfield Museum or Art, or through Bakersfield's Art Association.
Laurel says one of the ways she keeps their minds engaged is by creating science experiments that take five minutes or less to do and teach a valuable scientific concept. Some of her science experiments include the classic vinegar volcano, making a light prism on the wall, or watching marker colors spread across a wet paper towel. "I have a science book that I got at Target for $1. It has simple science projects in them that we like to discover as a family," she says.
You can also take advantage of Bakersfield's many museums like the Kern County Museum, Lori Brock Children's Discovery Center, or Buena Vista Museum of Natural History. Visiting the animals and native plant exhibits at CALM can also help stimulate your children's minds.
Another way Laurel likes to engage her children during Spring Break is by having them make their own lunches. She helps them prepare fun menu items like personal pizzas and fancy quesadillas. "This gives them a chance to express themselves and try their creativity in the kitchen," she says.
Reading is an important part of continued learning during the break. You can always check out books at your local library or visit story time at Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Russo's Books, or Borders. One thing the Phillips do to promote family reading is to pick a book like the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" or "James and the Giant Peach" and read it together. Then, they watch the movie based on the book and discuss the differences. "We talk about what we liked, what we didn't. I want to show my kids how different and great both the book and the movie can be. I also want to show them that watching a movie isn't as good as reading the book," she says.
If you want to get out of Bakersfield for a day, there are a plethora of museums, aquariums, and zoos within a two-hour car ride. Laurel says one of the best day trips she took with her family was to the California Science Museum at the University of Southern California. "It's free and designed to engage and amaze kids and adults alike," she says.